About That Tightening
by Todd Beeton, Mon Oct 27, 2008 at 11:58:50 PM EDT
As much as folks would like to dismiss the idea of a tightening as mere concern trolling, if you're on the lookout for it -- and I am -- you can find it in certain places. This isn't to send out a big Oh Noes! but rather to prepare for it in the event that a real tightening materializes; and hey, if it doesn't, no harm done.
So where do I see it?
First there's tonight's Reuters/Zogby tracking poll:
The race for President of the United States continued to tighten, as both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain lost ground in a contest that is now a four-point game, the latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby daily tracking telephone poll shows.
Obama lost 0.9 points and now stands at 49.0% in the tracking poll, while McCain lost 0.4 points and now stands at 44.7% support in a head-to-head match-up.
And there was Monday's R2000/DailyKos tracker, which had Barack's lead down to 8 points:
On successive individual days in the R2K poll (different than the topline, which is a combined three day sample), Obama was up +11 Friday, +9 Sat and +5 Sunday, with a +14 Thursday sample rolling off. Tomorrow's sample will repalce a +11, so further tightening is possible.
And on the state level, there was that North Carolina Public Policy Polling poll, which found that McCain gained a net 6 points in a week, reducing Obama's lead to 1 point:
The tightening over the last week can be tied back to North Carolina voters reverting more to their usual trends. Obama had pulled to within 55-39 with white voters, but McCain's advantage there is now back up to 60-36.
But those are just three isolated instances, which contribute to the larger picture but turn out not to be representative of what's truly happening with the determinative electoral vote map.
Nate Silver breaks it down:
John McCain is making no progress in his pursuit of the White House. Our model now projects Barack Obama to win 351 electoral votes to John McCain's 187, and to win the Electoral College 96.7 percent of the time to McCain's 3.3 percent. Both numbers are unchanged from yesterday.
This finding is based on a lack of movement toward McCain particularly in the state polling:
If the national polls are tightening, there is no evidence of it in the state numbers. [...]
If the state polls aren't showing movement toward McCain, then it is probably the case that any perceived movement in the national polls is sampling noise.
Which is a point Chris Bowers has made repeatedly:
The Pollster.com October chart shows that the month-long trend of Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening followed by Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening isn't really a trend at all. It has just been a month of statistical noise of Obama's national lead hovering around 7%. Even though the tracking polls are a bit tighter today than the last few days, I see no reason to believe that this stability has been broken, and that this is anything more than the latest McCain tightening (Saturday and Sunday) following an Obama peak (Tuesday through Friday) following a McCain tightening (the seven days before that) following an Obama peak (the five days before that).
Nate goes on:
If anything, in fact, the state polls are showing movement toward Obama on balance, not just in battleground states like Virginia, but also in non-battlegrounds as diverse as New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Arizona.
Precisely what MSNBC has found:
After moving the battlegrounds of Colorado and Virginia from Toss-up to Lean Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee now has crossed the 270 Electoral Vote threshold in NBC's electoral map. One week before the election, Obama leads McCain 286-163, up from his 264-163 advantage a week ago. As we pointed out on Friday, the significance of moving Colorado and Virginia into Obama's column is this: If Obama wins those two states, plus Nevada, he can still get to 270 -- even if he loses Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In addition to the Colorado and Virginia changes, we have moved McCain's home state of Arizona from Likely McCain to Lean McCain, a tip to the reality that Arizona, without McCain on the ticket, would have been a contested battleground.
But I think my favorite acknowledgment that Barack Obama continues to gain, particularly in the all important electoral college, is this entry on right-wing blog Race42008:
The trend keeps getting better and better for Obama... and time keeps growing shorter and shorter for McCain to do something about it.
And that leaves us with a map that declares Obama the victor by an incredible 381-157 margin.
Leading me to have to expand the limits on my EV trend chart so it can show the new highs and lows.
All of which is really to say that the current snapshot and the current trend look very very good for Obama, but I leave you with a fair warning from tightening skeptic, Chris Bowers:
Now, as a final, less than reassuring note, it should said that this might be something different that the latest downward node in a longstanding pattern of stability and statistical noise. The last five presidential campaigns have tightened toward the end, and even the 2006 midterms tightened up a bit toward the end. It is possible that this is happening again, and even I have theorized that this will result in a final polling margin of 4-5% in favor of Obama. [...]
Further, even if it did tighten up to 4-5% on the eve of the Election, that still means Obama wins comfortably. The Kerry states plus Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Virginia show now signs of wavering, as Obama leads by more than 7.0% in all of them even according to polling conducted over the weekend. That puts Obama at 286 electoral votes where McCain has to make up at least 8.0%...